I am reading Asimov's Foundation, in his books he describes a mentalist society where individuals using their brains in order to read others' minds and feelings, and to communicate with each other.

I imagine that such society will probably slowly but surely (maybe I'm wrong) neglect the verbal and speech communication we possess today (similar in a way how our society is being changed by today's new technological forms of communication).

Assuming the same society was using literature and verbal types of communication, how will mental communication change its relationship to writing, singing, speaking and debating?

Much like today people tend to speak less face to face and more through technology, will mental communication will take a bigger portion of our daily communication?

I imagine that some of the 'old school' types of communication will slowly be changed to the more 'efficient' and new types of communication.

My question is how will such society will be changed in particular literature and verbal types of communication (would humans continue to write or even speak when it is easier to communicate by mind?)


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    $\begingroup$ Too broad. There is no way to answer this question. Before anything, you must explain what it means that it is "easier". It is better in all possible circumstances than the written word? Have you ever coded or filled out a form? It also doesn't matter if you are wrong or not in reality, this is your premise, we don't know what would happen in reality. Currently this feels like a brainstorming exercise, you have a high concept and are asking for people to do the dirty work for you. There are infinite ways to answer your question. It might help giving criteria for a good answer. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Dec 20 '17 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ You could write a (fairly dull) book on this without covering more than one part of society. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 20 '17 at 10:35
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    $\begingroup$ Too broad, but also depends of lot of factors that we miss : what is the technological level of this society ? Where there telepath since the begining ? Literature is quite diferent before and after the printing house. Communication today is quite diferent compare to a century ago, with new media like tv, internet... My bet is that it will change a lot with direct communication, but not so much with "indirect" communication such as books : books are an easy way to spread a lot of information, to lot of people, and the reader read when he want. You can't have this with telepathy $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Dec 20 '17 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android, I'm slipping, What I mean is it's too broad. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 20 '17 at 11:23
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    $\begingroup$ @MaromOZ I fear it is if anything even broader. In your last version, you at least had the premise that it would replace communications. Now you are even asking about that. It is completely ok to ask multiple questions in multiple threads here. Please think about it for a second: What should people base their answers on? Currently all they have to go by is "making stuff up". While this approach is very popular here recently, I think this one is overdoing it a bit. Please note that this is not a website for discussing ideas and philosophizing about stuff but for Q&A $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Dec 20 '17 at 12:05

Literature will not change significantly. The reason for this is that literature is not primarily about communication but about expression. Efficiency is not important, but effectiveness is. Literature is all about effect and presentation. People have favourite writers not necessarily because of what those writers say, but how they say it. This is even truer for literary forms like poetry. Poetry is not efficient and often not very precise, either - it will be largely unaffected by quicker easier communication, because it is all about the rhythm and timing of delivery, and experiencing that. It is possible that there may even be a resurgence as people seek respite from fast frenetic communication. Singing is a bit like poetry, but can also have a social dimension - it is difficult to see how mental communication could replace that. A mental choir?

Verbal communication is likely to change, as it is already doing. Direct purposeful communication will benefit from better efficiency and less opportunity for misinterpretation, since verbal communication would take more time and is probably more prone to miswording, mispronunciation and mishearing. Mental communication will take a bigger portion of our daily communication - but that is inevitable, since it takes effectively none at present.

However, some verbal communication is more social and otherwise pointless - greetings, for example. A flashed thought of recognition may express a greeting efficiently, but its brevity itself is likely to make it even more pointless and an unnecessary interruption to faster more meaningful messaging.

Verbal communication will continue, but is likely to become more intimate. It will be a personal informal communication with people that you care about, partly because it is more physical than its mental counterpart. Also because it takes more time, and taking more time on anything (non-urgent) with someone you care about is important.

The other consideration is that verbal communication can be overheard and can involve other parties, either intentionally or unintentionally. It also informs - how you greet someone can tell someone else a lot about who that person is and what their relationship is to you; it also informally introduces them. It is unclear whether telepathy could/would work in a similar way - can you overhear someone else's thoughts not directed at you? Can you accidentally, or deliberately, allow someone else (possibly miles away) to overhear a conversation, and can the other person in the conversation know that you are doing that?

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    $\begingroup$ "more social and otherwise pointless" is exactly how I felt as a young person but brilliant people endeavored to get me to accept the idea of "social glue" and that pleasantries had significance in all large cooperative groups (like humans are from office to city to country). You did mention its place in establishing relation, respect; do you think we could operate without it and still avoid anarchy? I'm still not prone to pleasantries but try. Ability to read thoughts would still require shared experience and familiarity. How would we get to know strangers without some chatter? $\endgroup$ – Hebekiah Dec 20 '17 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Hebekiah - socially there is possibly not such a thing as pure communication, it is mostly chatter and noise. Often it is not so much what is said, but whether it is said at all - making small talk communicates, within itself, nothing much, but doing it is saying "you are someone that I think is worth talking to" or sometimes "you are someone that I think is worth being seen to be talking to" $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Dec 20 '17 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ "It is unclear whether telepathy could/would work in a similar way - can you overhear someone else's thoughts not directed at you? " it is very interesting to imagine how exactly this form of communication will actually occur, my thinking is that it will work somewhat like a cell phone when you get a transmitting "call" and choose whether to accept it or not. also there is a lot to the idea of not being able to control the formation of the "conversation" as you mentioned, i guess with technology involved there could be endless ways to play with it... $\endgroup$ – Marom Dec 20 '17 at 13:58

Foundation was a group of encyclopedists (lots of writing there) and Second Foundation (the mentalists, psychologists) centered around the Library on Trantor. Mental ability was more an augmentation of communication, not a total substitute. The mentalists lived simply, rustically, as supposed farmers and such (don't remember then actually doing much farming, just wearing the outfits) and while that was originally a cover for their activities it also could be indicative of changing priorities, away from glamor, within such a culture.

But if a society eschewed recording their deeds, quite the opposite could happen. There would necessarily be less shared common knowledge and less cooperation. The present would be most important and gluttony, pride, celebrity would be far more alluring. A creator, whatever they have akin to a writer or material arts, would have to perform in real time rather than pass a book around with his/her stories, discoveries, creations.
 Performers, personalities, celebrities; becoming one would be the only way of transmitting ideas to a wide audience. All information for general consumption would become spectacle since someone had to be there to get it instead of reading a newspaper.
  Emotional manipulation (like The Mule) would gradually supplant ideas, intellectual concepts (it would be Fox News all the time or much like most televised news with stories about adorable puppies balancing those about people to fear and hate). With nothing recorded pandemonium of alt-facts could ensue, groups divided to numbers that could gather within mentalist range and very little room for subtlety.

Have you ever spent much time around groups of deaf people? They don't use euphemisms, no use for what they consider extraneous communication. Signing is enhanced with facial expressions, body language communicating emotion more directly. All of it is less subtle than our spoken talk and less prone to refinement that leads to emotional maturing and complex thinking. All that must take place by reading and writing. How do you sign or psychically communicate a mathematical argument, the context for a new formula or idea, a feeling or experience the other has no familiarity with? I can think "hate" but our relationships to it may be quite different.

The Trantorian mentalists were deeply mired in their library, in studies, in a rich history of stored information and building upon it. The other group of mentalists did become a wholly new species basically, incomprehensible and anarchic to the rest of the galaxy. Supposedly they were in a process of evolution but could easily have fallen into dissolution.


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